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An Orangutan Hangs Up a Tool for Future Use

Penelitian - Experimental research findings suggest that great apes have the ability of foresight by saving tools for future use. In these studies, great apes were able to select, transport and return with a tool that they could predict would be needed hours later for obtaining food rewards. It is, however, contentious if these findings represent examples of foresight.

One alternative explanation is that associative learning can better explain the findings. That is, the great apes did not save the appropriate tool in anticipation of its planned future use, but they saved it because they had simply formed a strong association between the tool and gaining rewards during pre-experimental training procedures.

Penelitian An Orangutan Hangs Up a Tool for Future Use

In support of this criticism is that none of the subjects tested showed any evidence of specific tool-orientated behaviours that indicated they were anticipating the tool’s future use. Subjects, for instance, did not secure the tool against loss or hide it from their competitors. However, observational reports suggest that apes do perform tool-oriented actions in anticipation of a tool’s future use.

Observational reports suggest that great apes perform tool-orientated actions in preparation for a tool’s future use. Some of these observations suggest remarkable planning skills because the target for the tool’s intended use was not present during the tool-orientated actions.

Although these observational reports are intriguing, such planning ability has yet to be studied experimentally. To address this issue, Nicholas Mulcahy of the University of Queensland conducted two experiments that were inspired by an orangutan’s innovative behaviour during a novel enrichment task.

The orangutan spontaneously secured a tool he was using to rake-in rewards by hanging it up when it was not in use but would be required a short time later. Experiment 1 showed that securing the tool predominately occurred when the orangutan could anticipate the tool’s future use, but rarely occurred when he could anticipate no further use for it.



Experiment 2 indicated that the tool’s atypical size and/or weight were possible factors that prompted the orangutan to hang up the tool. Overall, the findings suggest that an orangutan not only innovated a novel way of securing a tool, but did so in anticipation of its future use.

Journal : Nicholas J. Mulcahy. An Orangutan Hangs Up a Tool for Future Use, Scientific Reports, 27 August 2018, DOI:10.1038/s41598-018-31331-7

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